Written by Caroline Cox on Jul 6 , 2021

Know what to look for in an SEM specialist — and how to determine if they’re right for you.

Here you’ll find:

  • Characteristics an ideal SEM specialist should have
  • Questions to ask a potential specialist
  • Tips for selecting the right candidates
  • Expert insights from industry pros

You’ve asked around, browsed reviews, and narrowed down your list of candidates. Now, how can you figure out which search engine marketing (SEM) specialist is right for you?

Since SEM is an integral part of any solid digital marketing strategy, the demand for top-notch experts is high. This demand means that choosing the right person for the job can potentially be overwhelming.

Let’s go over a few common traits to look for in an ideal (or nearly so) SEM expert for your company.

hawksem: sem specialist

Even though specialists may not be writing on their own, they must have a good understanding of what top-notch content is and how it works. (Image via Rawpixel)

1. Experience in your niche

Sure, it’s obvious that an SEM specialist must be experienced. But what’s the best way to determine if their experience is a match for your particular company? 

Experienced specialists understand that each business needs its own unique approach to SEM. That means no two strategies will be exactly alike. While most qualified SEM experts can set up a strategy for a variety of niches, the process is much faster if they’ve worked with businesses similar to yours in the past.

Questions to ask:

2. A history of reliability and trustworthiness

Search engine marketing isn’t an exact science — there’s an art to it as well. That’s why an experienced SEM specialist probably won’t offer you any guarantees. And if a candidate promises to get your website to the top pages of organic search engine results in a week or even a month? That’s a red flag.

A trustworthy SEM expert probably won’t give you exact dates, either. Instead, they’re more likely to lay out the rough scope of work that needs to be done to achieve results in the nearest future.

Questions to ask:

  • How long will it take you to get my website on the first page of Google? (Trick question!)
  • Were you able to get your previous clients’ websites to the first page of Google?
  • How much approximate traffic can I get in one week/month/year?

Pro tip: Generally, SEM campaigns take at least three months to start showing solid results.

3. An understanding of what makes quality content

Content marketing is an integral part of SEM efforts. Even though specialists may not be writing on their own, they should have a good understanding of what top-notch content is and how it works.

Even if they haven’t worked in your specific industry before, the pillars of good content (and how to source content ideas) are more or less the same.

Questions to ask:

  • Do you offer content writing services?
  • Can I see successful content pieces you created for previous clients?

4. Plenty of flexibility

Search engine marketing plans can be highly volatile. What works perfectly today could blow up in your face tomorrow (thanks, ever-changing algorithm!). 

Unless you follow the latest trends and adjust to new requirements on the go, it’s impossible to stay ahead of the competition. Experienced SEM specialists know how important it is to pivot. That’s why they prioritize staying on top of the latest and greatest industry updates and news.

Questions to ask:

  • What are your thoughts on the latest Google algorithm update?
  • What are some recent PPC trends you’re particularly interested in or excited about?

5. Stellar organization skills and practices

An SEM specialist’s work is never done. Once you launch a campaign, it’s all about monitoring, analyzing, and optimizing.

Without knowing how to judge, prioritize, and delegate, an SEM expert can’t survive. That’s why you want someone who knows how to think creatively and make independent decisions.

Questions to ask:

  • How many other experts do you work with on SEM accounts?
  • How often do you submit reports on results?
  • Will there be a person designated specifically to work on my project?
hawksem: find an sem specialist

An SEM specialist should have technical knowledge to come up with high-quality SEO and PPC strategies. (Image via Unsplash)

6. Excellent communication skills

Communication skills are one of the top traits you should be evaluating when hiring an SEM specialist. After all, these experts often have to work with many other strategists, such as search engine optimization (SEO) experts, content managers, designers, and more. 

Being able to stay on the same page and keep team members in the loop is imperative to running successful campaigns. A lack of communication can lead to misaligned expectations (or worse — wasted ad spend with no results to show for it). 

If you aren’t happy with a candidate’s communication skills during an interview, they’re not likely going to improve once you partner with them.

Questions to ask:

  • How would you describe your communication style?
  • What are your top methods for staying in touch with a client?
  • How do you report a mistake?

7. Well-rounded technical knowledge

An SEM specialist should have technical knowledge to come up with high-quality SEO and PPC strategies. They should know the ins and outs of Google Ads and related platforms that help launch campaigns, offer insight, and provide data.

Speaking of SEM technicalities, you want to find someone who can handle multiple mediums (such as Google, Microsoft Ads, and AdRoll), and understands where your industry generally performs best.

Questions to ask:

  • What platforms do you use when conducting SEM?
  • Do you know JavaScript?
  • How do you create or obtain graphics and imagery?

8. Passion for the field

The best SEM experts are passionate about their job. When you’re asking questions about their plans for your company or previous clients, look for passion or excitement in their voices.

Search engine marketing is a hands-on process. Without passion and inspiration, it’s often tough to achieve desirable results.

Questions to ask:

  • What attracted you to the SEM field?
  • Which are your favorite SEM tools?
  • What was the most amazing breakthrough you ever achieved with SEM?

9. A dose of curiosity

To stay on top of their game, it helps for SEM experts to be curious and ready to ask questions during the interview process. SEM is a joint effort. If the specialist doesn’t ask the right questions, you may be harder to gauge if they’re actually a good fit.

Your potential SEM partner should be curious about the way your company works to be able to brainstorm creative ways to improve it.

Question to ask:

  • What questions do you have for me?

The takeaway

With so many SEM candidates vying for your attention, it can be tough to choose the perfect partner. By focusing on their behavior and asking insightful questions, you’ll be in a position to pinpoint the ideal search engine marketing specialist after a couple of interviews.

Now that you know what to look for, an efficient partnership could be right around the corner.

This post has been updated and was originally published in May 2020.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of reading, yoga, quick vegetarian recipes, and making lists.

Related Posts

woman holding "like a boss" mug

10 Proven Steps to LinkedIn Ads Success in 2023

From sponsored content to Matched Audiences and everything in between, here's what you need to know to create effective LinkedIn Ads in 2023....

Read More
stack of papers of different paid search company options

Top 10 Paid Search Company Options for 2023 Success

Looking to ramp up your paid search efforts? Then check out this list of the top paid search company options to find one that's the perfect fit for you....

Read More
digital marketing plan

How to Create a Winning PPC Marketing Plan

PPC campaign metrics falling short? It’s time to roll out a winning PPC marketing plan set up to stand the test of time -- here's how to do it right. ...

Read More